Are ASBOs Effective?
ASBOs were introduced in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act and were heavily criticised by many. The Labour Party did little research but based the orders on anecdotal evidence from MPs constituencies. In light of how they have been utilised, have they proved effective?
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They were combined with parenting orders
People are looking upon the ASBOs as if it was the only measure that Labour introduced, but this is a misrepresentation. ASBOs were set up as a civil order imposed by the Government to stop youths hanging around in certain areas and to give them curfews. In addition to this, the youngsters’ parents were given a parenting order which made them attend parenting lessons in order to solve the root of the problem regarding yobbish behaviour. Of course the ASBO would not work on its own, but it was not introduced on its own and therefore should not be judged on this basis.
While this argument applies to the use of some ASBOs it is not true of all. It can't be claimed that because in some instances these orders are used together with a parenting order that you cannot consider the two orders independently.
When an ASBO is breached by someone under the age of 16 then a Parenting Order must be made. In 2005 60% of ASBOs were given to people over the age of 18[[ASBO Nation: The criminalisation of nuisance]] therefore there are many cases where this does not happen. ASBOs were not originally introduced to be focused on under 18s, but noisy neighbours and disorder while under the influence of drugs and alcohol which was becoming a problem for some communities[[Newburn T, Criminology]].
The Government refused to publicise a lot of information which has been called for on the utility of ASBOs. One of these calls has been for the data on other interventions used alongside ASBOs, therefore it is difficult to accuse arguments of being misleading when the Government itself has not published figures.
They worked alongside the Respect Progrmme Blair introduced
ASBOs were initially unpopular and were rarely administered. For the first two years only 300-400 were given out by the police. However, when the Respect programme kicked in, the police and councils began to see the point of ASBOs, to curb anti social behaviour in order to make Britain more conclusive and cohesive. The numbers soared from 427 in 2002 to 3,479 in 2004 and reached a peak of 4,122 new orders issued in 2005. [[http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jul/28/asbo-theresa-may-crime-policy]] These orders were then being administered against not only the young but against anyone committing any sort of behaviour that was causing anxiety in society and could potentially lead to crime; either by the person themselves or by that person facing reprisals for their anti social behaviour.
They were never intended to be administered against only the young and weren't. This is a common misrepresentation made by the media focusing on the 'youth' problem. In reality there was more of a shift towards youths getting ASBOs.[[Asbos, "Preventative orders" and the European Court of Human Rights']]
Furthermore, their increase in uptake can not be considered as a result of the Respect programme. During this time the Government had increased the bodies that could apply for ASBOs and also created the CrASBO. The latter can be seen as the biggest reason for the sour in numbers. As well as this the government pushed local authorities to increase their uptake[[Newburn T, Criminology]] and David Blunkett suggested those that didn't should be sacked.
The fact that they were administered a lot did not mean that they were effective. When the National Audit Office reviewed the procedure they found that orders were being placed against ridiculous forms of behaviour. Such things as wearing gloves on one hand and an 87 year old even was administered one for shouting at neighbours. More worryingly, the mentally ill were also found to be having these ASBOs placed against them. How can this be said to be effective in accordance with respect?
Criminalises Behaviour & Individuals
It is a civil order, but if one condition or more is breached then the recipient faces a criminal penalty. This creates a situation of net widening in the criminal justice system when individuals could be dealt with in a different, less punitive, manner. As a result many feel that applications for an ASBO should always be treated as criminal.[[http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/3906843.stm]]
ASBOs can help effectively deal with individuals who fall through the net of the criminal justice system due to the minor nature of their crimes. Even though they are relatively minor their persistent nature means that they are harmful to the community and their neighbours. ASBOs help the community feel like their problems are being tackled and treated seriously.
Considering the lack of evidence conducted into the effectiveness of ASBOs it is difficult to suggest that they are cost effective. Studies suggest that it costs around £2500 to obtain an ASBO[[http://www.nacro.org.uk/criminal-justice-expertise/policy-lines/antisocial-behaviour-orders-asbos,92,NAP.html]] which rises dramatically should the ASBO be breached.
In times of economic hardship it is important to stick to proven cost effective measures.
However, with economic hardship comes higher likelihood of petty crime. It is for this reason that those in the lower classes are more likely to commit crime than those in higher classes. This effect is heightened in the aftermath of a recession. As people feel less and less willing to pay and put the blame on society, they are more likely to steal. This can be thought of as especially true with teenagers who are likely to receive ASBOs. It is cost effective in as much as it is less expensive than prison and is ultimately less expensive to society than ignoring the criminality.
Wide Ranging Conditions
Prohibitory conditions can be incredibly wide ranging and inhibit the recipient greatly in their day to day life. Individuals can be banned from places and other individuals, even though the area they are banned from may be on their route to school or to town[[http://www.nacro.org.uk/criminal-justice-expertise/policy-lines/antisocial-behaviour-orders-asbos,92,NAP.html]]. ASBOs would be more effective if conditions were considered more to ensure they were appropriate and necessary.
It is not about being more lenient but improving ASBOs and there absurdly high breach rate caused in some part by unnecessary conditions. For instance, one person was banned from being in a large group. As part of his 'rehabilitation' he went to a youth group and was therefore in breach of this ASBO.
How would an ASBO be more effective if they were more lenient? They are supposed to be an inconvenience. Just like prison is. If ASBOs only banned the places that these people committed the crime then their crimes would be taken elsewhere. We need to put in place inconvenient restrictions in order for the individual to really think about the consequences of their actions.
Young people wear them with pride
In the lower classes, having an ASBO has become a symbol of pride. Many youths will openly talk about their ASBOs and in turn, people do not fear ASBOs. Once you take the fear out of the measure, there is no effectiveness in it. In fact the opposite has occurred with youngsters, they would be pleased to obtain an ASBO. It is a symbol of them not cohering with the rules and effectively getting away with it.
In December 2007 it was found that 61% of people who had ASBOs breached them [[http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jul/28/asbo-theresa-may-crime-policy]]
The breach rate does not necessarily mean individuals do not fear them or see them as a badge of honour, although in some cases this is true. However the media emphasise these cases and assume what is true for some individuals must be true of other similar minded individuals.
Research conducted by Wain[[The ASBO, Wrong turning dead end]] suggests that most people do not wear them with pride with 62% feeling that publicity had a negative impact. Others highlighting that while friends may see their ASBO as cool or a mark of respect, they did not see it that way.
What do you think?